Saturday, June 4, 2011

Putting Their Foot Down--Sort Of

In today's Spokesman Review we read about the House of Representatives passing a resolution that gives President Obama 14 days to justify the U.S. military involvement in attacks on Libya. Along with that they voted down a resolution that calls for withdrawing from Libya within 15 days.

Could the House be getting semi-serious about abuse of executive power?

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 list very specific conditions where the president is permitted to send our military into hostile action.

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

The Obama administration claims it not violating the War Powers Act. The law also requires the president to cease military within 60 days unless there's been a declaration of war, an extension of 60 days, or an automatic 30-day extension if Congress is unable meet because of an armed attack on the U.S. That 60-day period ended on May 20.

UN Resolution 1973 created a no-fly zone over Libya and gave member states authorization to enforce it. The Arab League supported that resolution. When asked about military intervention, Defense Secretary Gates said, "We all agreed that NATO will only act if there is demonstrable need, a sound legal basis, and strong regional support."

With the Arab League supporting (regional support) the UN resolution (legal basis), we and our NATO allied used that as the basis for our military intervention in Libya. However, we have gone beyond enforcing a no-fly zone and arms embargo by implementing a broad bombing campaign. The demonstrable need, therefore, has presumably become the expelling of Muammar Gadaffi after 42 years of power. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans rose up in protest and a civil war broke out. We decided to take sides and get involved for reasons that don't match up to the specifics in the War Powers Act.

Congress has given past executives free passes on military action before. Heck, they even authorized an invasion of a country that posed no threat to us resulting in thousands of deaths, the displacement of millions of people, and justified American use of torture. For that we are safe from Saddam Hussein and his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

So is Congress going to get serious about U.S. bombs and missiles hitting targets killing people in Libya?

We have two weeks to find out before we find out how much more time we have to find out.


Anonymous said...

Obama's approach to engaging in this war defied prediction, and almost defies description. He basically just sent an executive memo on the way to Brazil,with nary a cc: to Congress. He not only violated the Constitution War Powers Clause and the already elastic War Powers law, he defied his own oft-repeated campaign promise for careful debate in Congress.

And why? Two months ago he may well have gotten Congress on his side for at least the "limited NATO-run, non-regime-change" war he described then. Now he's in even clearer total violation of the Constitution, the law, and Congress. Even his own party is defecting.

There is also the creepy logic that since this war is multi-lateral and includes allies, it's OK. Certainly Congress should consider whether we have allies before declaring war. But neither NATO nor the UN can declare war on behalf of the US in lieu of Congress.

The theme this week in the news is that this is not a President who thinks the Constituion or law applies to himself or other elites. We have the TSA threatening to shutdown Texas air flights if Texas passes a law affirming that the Fourth Amendment and sexual assault laws apply to aiport personnel. We have the evidence that the administration colluded with campaign contributor Goldman Sachs to scapegoat a single low-level trader to excuse all of Goldman's illegal actions.

And of course, still no prosecutions of elites for torture, Gitmo-style lawless "justice" continues apace, and the revelations of illegal domestic spying on citizens keep leaking out without repercussions.

We're a banana republic without even the bananas.

ChefGus said...

Hank.... thank you for the fine thought full piece... It makes this ex army officer crazy that we just go and bomb folks with alacrity, and involving the United Nations is just a cover... bring it to the floor and bring it to a vote... get em on record... john